Does the state set priorities for districts to follow when accepting students for open enrollment?

Does the state set priorities for districts to follow when accepting students for open enrollment?

Last updated: October 2018

Open enrollment policies allow a student to transfer to a public school of his or her choice. There are two basic types of open enrollment policies.

  • Intradistrict: Students transfer to another school within their resident school district.
  • Interdistrict: Students transfer a school outside of their resident district.

Depending on the state, open-enrollment policies are mandatory, voluntary, or both. 

  • Mandatory policies require districts to participate in the program.
  • Voluntary policies allow districts to choose whether to participate in open enrollment, often allowing districts the discretion to enter into transfer agreements with other districts.
  • States with both mandatory and voluntary policies usually require mandatory open enrollment in low-performing schools or districts, in defined regions of the state or in other specific circumstances while allowing voluntary open enrollment in the rest of the state.

View the full open enrollment database here.  


Does the state set priorities for districts to follow when accepting students for open enrollment?
Alabama No open enrollment policies.
Alaska Not addressed.
Arizona No. However, districts may give preference to children of school or school district employees or to students in foster care. 

Citations: Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-816.01
Arkansas Yes. School districts must give priority to siblings if space is available. During the first year a school district is not subject to transfer limits, sending districts must give first priority to students unable to transfer due to transfer limits in prior years. 

Citations: Ark. Code Ann. § 16-18-1903, § 16-18-1906

Code Ark. R. 005.23.8-4.00, R. 005.23.8-7.00
California Yes.

Voluntary: Receiving districts must give priority in the following order, but may not displace students residing in the district.
  • Siblings of students already attending the district.
  • Students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
  • Children of military personnel.
A district may determine the number of transfers it is willing to accept and hold an enrollment lottery if the number of applications exceeds space. Receiving districts may not reject a transfer if the cost of educating the student exceeds state aid. Any receiving district may admit a student expelled from a sending district.

Mandatory: Receiving districts must give priority in the following order.
  • Siblings of students already attending the school.
  • Students transferring from a low-performing school with certain criteria.
Districts also give priority to students residing in the district. If the number of applicants exceeds space available, the school must conduct a lottery from the two priority groups until available spaces are filled.

Citations: Cal. Educ. Code § 48301, § 48303, § 48304, § 48306, § 48356, § 46600
Colorado No. However, school districts must consider adopting a policy that gives priority to students who have low academic performance and are transferring from a low-performing school.

Citations: Colo. Rev. Stat § 22-36-101
Connecticut Yes, for mandatory interdistrict. In districts with limited space, districts first give preference to siblings and to students who would otherwise attend a low-performing school or a school that has lost its accreditation and then use a lottery designed to preserve or increase racial, ethnic and economic diversity.

Citations: Conn Gen. Stat. Ann. § 10-266aa
Delaware Yes. Receiving districts must give priority to the following in order:
  • Returning students.
  • Students living in a school's designated feeder zone.
  • Siblings of currently enrolled students, with preference for siblings who live in the district.
After giving priority to the first three student groups, districts may give priority to student groups in the following order:
  • Students who have designated the school or program as a first, second, or third choice.
  • Students who live within the district.
  • Children of school employees.
After the district has admitted all qualifying students based on these criteria the district must use a lottery and a ranked waiting list. Receiving districts may also deny enrollment for students expelled from the home district for 15 or more days.

Citations: Del. Code Ann. tit. 14, § 405, § 411
District of Columbia Yes. Preference is given to students based on the following:
  • The student's sibling attends the school.
  • The student resides within a reasonable walking distance.
  • The requested school is preferred to the designated school.
The district must use a lottery to determine enrollment.

Citations: D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 5-E, § 2106
Florida Yes. School districts must give preferential treatment to the following groups: 
  • Dependent children of active duty military personnel whose move resulted from military orders. 
  • Children relocated due to a foster care placement in a different school zone. 
  • Children who move because of a court-ordered custody change. 
  • Students residing in the school district.
In addition, each school district must do the following: 
  • Allow parents to declare school preferences, especially for placing siblings in the same school.
  • Provide a lottery for school placement, including an appeals process for hardship cases.
  • Maintain socioeconomic, demographic and racial balance.
  • Provide parents of students in multiple session schools priority access.
  • Address the availability of transportation.
  • Allow transfer students to be immediately eligible to participate in extracurricular activities. However, students may not participate in a sport if the student participated in the same sport at another school during the school year, unless the student meets certain criteria.
  • Identify schools in the district that have not reached capacity. 
Districts and charter schools may not displace students living in the school district with non-resident students.

Citations: Fla. Stat. Ann. § 1002.31
Georgia No. However, districts must admit non-resident children of district employees.

Citations: Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-293
Hawaii Not addressed.
Idaho No. However, suspended or expelled students are not eligible for open enrollment transfers.

Citations: Idaho Code Ann. § 33-1402, § 33-1404
Illinois Not addressed.
Indiana Yes, but only for districts that have not established open enrollment transfer policies. Districts without transfer policies must hold a lottery and must give priority to siblings of currently enrolled students and children of district employees. Additionally, they must accept students when all of the following criteria are met:
  • The student attended a private school in the district's attendance area for at least the two preceding school years.
  • The student is transferring because the student's resident district does not offer grades 9-12.
  • The majority of students in the same grade of the transferring student are residents of the school district.
  • The district has capacity to accept students.
All districts are required to accept children of current employees if space is available, and districts must hold a lottery if transfer requests for children of employees exceed capacity. 

Districts may deny admission to a student who has been suspended or expelled during the preceding 12 months for ten or more days or if the student was suspended or expelled for causing physical injury to another person at the school, violating the school's drug or alcohol rules or for possessing a firearm on school grounds.

Citations: Ind. Code Ann. § 20-26-11-6.5, § 20-26-11-32
Iowa Yes. Receiving districts may not deny enrollment to must give priority to requests that would facilitate a court-ordered desegregation plan or voluntary diversity plan. A student who has been suspended or expelled may not transfer to another district until the student is reinstated by the resident district.

Citations: Iowa Code Ann. § 282.18
Iowa Admin. Code r. 281-17.6, r. 281-17.8
Kansas Not addressed.
Kentucky Not addressed.
Louisiana Not addressed.
Maine Not addressed.
Maryland No open enrollment policies.
Massachusetts No. However, if the number of nonresident students applying for acceptance to another district exceeds the number of available seats, the school committee must hold a lottery.

Citations: Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. 76 § 12B
Michigan Yes. Under voluntary intradistrict and interdistrict open enrollment, receiving districts must give priority to siblings of enrolled students. If the number of transfer requests exceeds capacity, the receiving district must hold a lottery and create a waiting list. A district may refuse students who have been suspended from another school within the past two years or expelled at any time.

Citations: Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 388.1705, § 388.1705c
Minnesota Yes. If a district has more transfer requests than space available, the district must hold a lottery and the following student groups must receive priority:
  • Siblings of currently enrolled students.
  • Applications related to an approved integration and achievement plan.
  • Children of school district staff.
  • Students living in municipalities meeting specific criteria.
Districts may refuse enrollment for students who have been expelled for specific reasons.

Citations: Minn. Stat. Ann. § 124D.03
Mississippi No. However, school districts must enroll any nonresident children of any instructional or licensed school district employee upon the employee's request.

Citations: Miss. Code Ann. § 37-15-31
Missouri Yes. Receiving districts may give preference to resident students over transferring students and refuse enrollment to students suspended or expelled for 10 days or more in the current or immediately preceding school term.

Metropolitan Schools Achieving Value in Transfer Corporation (voluntary open enrollment in St. Louis): The board of directors sets policies but receiving districts must give first preference to students attending based on a desegregation order.

Citations: Mo. Ann. Stat. § 162.1045, § 162.1060
Montana No, although a child with a disability who resides in the district must be approved.

Citations: Mont. Code Ann. § 20-5-321
Nebraska Yes. For districts not part of a learning community (a partnership between multiple districts), first priority is given to siblings of enrolled students.

For districts that are members of a learning community, first priority is given to siblings of enrolled students. Second priority is given to students previously enrolled in the districts, and third priority is given to students living within the learning community who contribute to socioeconomic diversity at school building. Final priority is given to students who reside in the learning community. 

A student may transfer once prior to graduation unless:
  • The student moves to another school district.
  • The receiving district merges with another district.
  • The receiving district only has elementary grades.
  • The student has completed all the grades offered in the receiving school and is transitioning to another school level (i.e. elementary to middle school, middle school to high school).
  • The transfer would allow the student to continue current enrollment in the receiving district.
  • The transfer would allow the student to enroll in a district where he or she was previously enrolled as a resident student.
  • The student resides in a school district that is part of a learning community and attend school in another district within the learning community as a open enrollment student. 


Citations: Neb. Rev. Stat. § 79-234, § 79-238
Nevada Not addressed
New Hampshire Yes. Students who meet the admissions requirements of a receiving school and who are residents of the district where the school is located, are given admission preference over nonresident students. If applications exceed capacity, the school or district must use a lottery system. Open enrollment schools are not required to enroll an expelled student.

Citations: N.H. Rev. Stat. § 194-D:2, § 194-D:4
New Jersey Yes. Receiving districts and sending districts may give preference to siblings of enrolled students. If a receiving district receives more applications for a school than space available, a lottery must be used. Sending districts that limit choice enrollment and with transfer requests above the percentage limit may hold a lottery to select participating students. Districts may give preference to siblings already participating before holding the lottery and may develop a waiting list based on the lottery.

Citations: N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:36B-20, § 18A:36B-21
N.J. Admin. Code § 6A:12-4.1, § 6A:12-4.2
New Mexico Yes. Receiving districts must give priority in the following order:
  1. Students residing in the school district or school attendance area or children of active-duty military personnel who lived in the area prior to deployment.
  2. Students enrolled in a low-performing school.
  3. Students who previously attended the school.
Receiving districts may establish additional enrollment preference, such as after-school care for students, children of school employees, siblings already attending the school, and so on. If applications exceed space available, the receiving district must create a ranked waiting list based on priority enrollment. Receiving districts may deny enrollment to students previously expelled from any school in the state during the previous 12 months.

Citations: N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-1-4
New York Not addressed.
North Carolina No open enrollment policies.
North Dakota No, although the board of each school district sets standards for accepting or rejecting applications.

Citations: N.D. Cent. Code § 15.0-31-06
Ohio Yes.

Voluntary: Resident students of the receiving district and previously-enrolled students must have preference over first-time applicants. Receiving districts may deny enrollment to students who have been suspended or expelled by the sending district for 10 consecutive days or more in the current or proceeding term.

Mandatory: Receiving districts must give enrollment preference to students attending or living in the attendance area of certain schools in the district. Receiving districts may deny enrollment to students who have been suspended or expelled by the sending district for 10 consecutive days or more in the current or proceeding term.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3313.97, § 3313.98
Ohio Admin. Code 3301-48-01, 3301-48-02
Oklahoma No. However, children of district teaching personnel who are not residents of the school district are allowed to transfer upon approval of the receiving school district. Siblings of transfer students may transfer to the receiving district with approval from that district's board of education.

Citations: Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 70, § 8-113
Okla. Admin. Code 210:10-1-18
Oregon Yes. Receiving districts make decisions about enrolling non-resident students. If applications exceed any attendance limits determined by the school board, the districts must hold a lottery and may give priority to the following:
  • Siblings of currently-enrolled students.
  • Students who attended a charter school in the same district for at least three consecutive years or completed the highest grade offered by the school.
  • Students who moved out of the school district during the previous school year but received permission to continue attending a school in the receiving district.


Citations: Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 339.127
Pennsylvania Not addressed.
Rhode Island Not addressed.
South Carolina Not addressed.
South Dakota Yes. Applications are reviewed in the order they are received, but applications for siblings of currently enrolled students have priority.

Citations: S.D. Code Ann. § 13-28-43, § 13-28-44
Tennessee No. However, school districts must enroll the children of teachers who do not live in the district.

Citations: Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-3113
Texas Yes, but only for students transferring out of low-performing schools under the public education grant program. Districts with more applications than space available must give priority to students at risk of dropping out of school and hold a lottery, although school districts may give first priority to previously enrolled students and their siblings over at-risk students.

Citations: Tex. Educ. Code § 29.201, § 29.202, § 29.203
Utah No. However, school boards of receiving districts may give priority to intradistrict transfers over interdistrict transfers and may establish priorities through the standards for accepting or rejecting transfer applications. When reviewing applications, local school boards must consider if an applicant has siblings attending the school or another school in the district. In addition, districts may reject students who have committed serious infractions of the law or school rules or have been guilty of chronic misbehavior.

Citations: Utah Code Ann. § 53G-6-402, § 53G-6-403, § 53G-6-407
Utah Admin. Code r. R277-437
Vermont Yes. School boards of sending districts must give preference to the transfer request of a student whose transfer request was denied in a prior year. If more than the allowable number of students wish to transfer to a school, the board of the receiving high school district must hold a lottery to determine which students may transfer. 

Citations: Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 822a
Virginia No. However, school districts' admission priorities may include preferences for siblings of currently enrolled students, students living in a location that have had a school attendance change in the previous two years, or children of school employees. Schools may also include provisions for a lottery if transfer requests exceed capacity and may prohibit transfers for students who have had certain disciplinary actions.

Citations: Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-7.1
Washington No. However, districts must accept children of full-time teaching staff and may refuse to enroll a student who has been expelled or suspended for more than ten consecutive days or has a history of violent or disruptive behavior.

Citations: Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.225.225, § 28A.225.270
West Virginia No. However, school districts must consider interdistrict transfer applications from parents due to student travel time or school location.

Citations: W. Va. Code Ann. § 18-5-16
Wisconsin Yes. If there are more applications than spaces available, a receiving district must create a waiting list and accept students from this list on a random basis after giving preference to currently-enrolled students and their siblings. School districts may give preference to residents of the school district who live outside the school's attendance area. If the receiving district is a union high school district, preference must be given to students who are attending the receiving district's underlying elementary school district.

Citations: Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.51
Wyoming No. However, districts do not have to accept students who have been expelled or suspended.

Citations: Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 21-4-502


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